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Havoc For Ma Bell

Squeeze's hit number creates havoc for Ma Bell
Toronto Star, 1988. by Craig MacInnis


The new Squeeze single, "853-5937", has a familiar ring - especially for all the poor shmoes with the same number.

Ever since "853-5937" began its climb up the Billboard chart, crank callers have had a field day, dialing the number in different area codes across America.

The story even made USA Today last week, with the banner headline: "Squeeze's hit single is ringing in their ears".

"It used to be my real phone number back in England," songwriter Glenn Tilbrook said yesterday in a phone interview from Atlanta.

"I had no idea it was causing a problem till I saw the (story) in the newspaper last week..."

Victims in Worcester, Mass., and Birmingham, Ala., have already changed to unlisted numbers, while a family in Brooklyn has disconnected its phone.

Tilbrook, a Brit, said he wasn't familiar with the American custom of using the fictional "555" prefix as a hedge against mischief-making.

"No such luck," he groaned. "We just plowed straight in there and destroyed thousands of people's lives all over the world."

Well, not quite. A coast-to-coast check yesterday by The Star's switchboard operators revealed no one in Canada has the number.

Still, it's not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Tommy Tutone's "867-5309" and Wilson Pickett's "634-5789" were other Top 20 singles that sent shudders through Ma Bell's central nervous system.

Squeeze plays Massey Hall March 8.
 

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